Australia to join 100 nations in climate resilience pledge ahead of UN summit

Australia will join Britain and more than 100 countries in a global push for increased urgency for nations to adapt to climate change and the increased droughts, heat waves, cyclones, devastating storms, floods and rising sea levels that come with it.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley will also use an address on Tuesday morning to the international Climate Adaptation Summit to commit Australia to new national climate resilience and adaptation strategy as the impacts of climate change exacerbate economic, social and security threats.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

In a prerecorded address, Ms Ley will underline Australia’s commitment to working with the international community to build on the country’s collaboration with scientists, communities and traditional owners to act on, and adapt to, an already changing climate.

It will include an initial $12.9 million investment towards establishing Climate and Resilience Services Australia, a new capability that will connect and leverage the Commonwealth’s climate and natural disaster risk information to further prepare for and build resilience to natural disasters.

Ms Ley’s speech follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments at the weekend that he would not be altering Australia’s 2030 climate emissions reductions targets or sign-up to a 2035 target ahead of this year’s United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow.

Ms Ley said that despite global criticism over Australia’s lack of ambition on climate emission targets, the nation was “deeply committed” to collaboration that accelerated adaptation to protect communities and the planet.

“We are joining global partnerships and taking the lead in building resilient communities,” Ms Ley will say, according to a draft copy of the speech circulated to the media.

“Climate adaptation is about taking practical actions to help our environment, our communities and our economy deal with the impacts of climate change that are already taking place.

“We are focused on the steps we can take now and in the future to create a more resilient Australia.”

Labor has increased its attacks on the Morrison government over its tardiness to allocate funding for projects under its own domestic disaster resilience projects, claiming flood-prone regions were unlikely to receive newly-announced mitigation funding until floods have already hit.

Last month it accused the Morrison government of ignoring warnings of La Niña conditions this summer by refusing to spend its $4 billion disaster recovery and resilience fund 18 months after it was announced.

Ms Ley will also announce that Australia will join the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment – a UN summit initiative, which represents the commitment of the global private financial industry, in partnership with key private and public institutions, to foster the more efficient integration of physical climate risks in investment decision making.

“As part of our commitment to build a more climate resilient world, Australia has pledged new global finance of at least $1.5 billion over the period 2021 to 2025, a 50 per cent increase on the previous period.”

She said establishing Climate and Resilience Services Australia was an example of bringing together Australia’s world-leading climate and natural disaster information and expertise into a national capability.

“For all the work we are doing, we know that the challenges we face are growing and the development of a new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy throughout 2021 will provide an important road map to meet these future challenges.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific spokesperson Nelli Stevenson said the federal government’s focus on building “climate resilience”, while remaining committed to mining, burning and exporting coal and gas was putting Australian communities in danger from worsening bushfires and extreme heat.

“Australia is one of the world’s worst climate offenders,” she said.

“We export more coal and gas, the primary drivers of dangerous climate change, than anywhere else in the world. Our federal government has steadfastly refused to follow the lead set by the rest of the world, as well as our states, territories and industry, in committing to net zero emissions.”

She said for Ms Ley to call for “climate resilience” while Australia continued to “spew out emissions smacks of the worst kind of hypocrisy”.

“Australia must step up and commit to net zero emissions by 2040, and phase out mining and burning coal and gas if it is serious about protecting communities from climate impacts such as worsening bushfires, extreme heatwaves, flooding and droughts,” she said. “To keep communities safe, climate resilience alone isn’t going to cut it.”

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